Monday, June 27, 2011

PCSO CORRUPTION AND CHARITY IN FREE MARKETS


It’s not surprising to hear the allegations of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo diverting Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) funds and leaving the agency P4 billion in debt. But how many people, upon hearing of such controversy, ever think to abolish the PCSO, as opposed to merely cleaning house to make way for the next thief?

If the PCSO is designed to provide charity, it’s not doing a very good job at it. It holds a monopoly on both charity and gaming, but for most, this is a more suitable arrangement compared to any private ‘profit-oriented’ organizations. In making such a presumption, it is ignored that public officials could not help but act for some kind of ‘profit’ as well. The trouble is that coercive institutions tend to be wasteful or anti-productive.


COERCION IN THE LOTTO

Coercive? It’s not like I’m forced to buy a lotto ticket, right? But that’s not where the coercion lies; it’s in the shifting of resources away from private enterprise and the weakening of potentially more efficient charity and gaming organizations. Through such a monopoly and anti-competitive campaigns, it has been ingrained in people’s minds that games such as jueteng are wrong in themselves and not simply due to bureaucratic say-so.


PROFIT? EFFICIENCY? BUT THIS IS CHARITY!

But why am I talking about efficiency here? Charity is not about profit or efficiency and all those things related to private enterprise, right? Actually, charity, being one type of human action, is concerned with making the most out of one’s resources, as with any business endeavor. The difference might be the particular object to be attained (money, approval, satiation of guilt, sense of fulfillment in helping others, etc.), but the principle behind human action remains ― the satisfaction of wants.


NOTHING CHARITABLE ABOUT GOVERNMENT CHARITY

Bureaucratized charity, whether this involves funding through taxes or ticket proceeds, defeats the purpose. In the first place, there’s nothing charitable about being threatened with violence before parting with one's property, or being threatened with violence from starting one’s ‘racket.’

Second, it has to be understood that even acts of charity entail the manifestation of consumer preferences, that is, the desires of the benefactors, whose allocating of resources can only be directed in a decentralized manner, wherein the utility of intended charity goods are weighed against the happiness that giving provides; ‘causes’ deemed stupid such as aid for workers in the elephant-cleaning industry are eliminated as well.


CONCLUSION

A privatized arrangement more efficiently aids those whom individuals would want to help whether or not the PCSO exists. Preferably, it shouldn’t exist, for the sake of both givers and recipients.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

JOSE ANTONIO VARGAS, ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT: HANG THE SON OF A BITCH


The case of Pulitzer-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, who recently admitted his status as an “undocumented immigrant,” highlights the injustice of the immigration system, in fact, the whole concept of immigration. Why should state officials, and not my desired associations, determine my geographical location?


I WAS KIDDING ABOUT THE TITLE

I admire the fact that Vargas, who had previously come out as a homosexual, would dare to come out a second time, to reveal his immigration status. Of course, it was only a matter of time before being found out, but to write about it in the New York Times was quite audacious, or a huge gamble that his situation would attract enough attention for people to rethink the present law.

I was quite moved by this part of his narrative:
We’re not always who you think we are. Some pick your strawberries or care for your children. Some are in high school or college. And some, it turns out, write news articles you might read. I grew up here. This is my home. Yet even though I think of myself as an American and consider America my country, my country doesn’t think of me as one of its own.



NATIONALITY IS A STATE OF MIND, NOT A MIND OF THE STATE

It is unfortunate that Vargas has a bad conscience about his predicament, in that he equates ‘America’ with the US government.

Although it is quite necessary to distinguish places from each other, it would be a mistake to think that governments are necessary for such delineations to occur. With such twisted logic, there would have been no way that languages could have evolved, for words to develop specific meanings. The thing is, communities and countries have always preceded governments.

And even in the case that, say, Czechoslovakia is split into two nations, people will identify themselves with certain cultures regardless of the state’s say-so. There are deeper ties between persons, than what surface declarations by politicians reveal.


PRIVATE PROPERTY IS KEY

But then, perhaps this feeling of belonging is also why the ideology of collectivism is so attractive. Up to the present day, political systems have tended to reflect a centralized viewpoint, where dictates from ‘on high’ are to be brought down to the people.

This is in spite of the demonstrable efficiency of decentralized markets, where individuals make choices and associate with one another for mutual benefit, to raise the standard of living over the years.

The reason Vargas feels he is American and loves America is because he is American, and no statute can say otherwise. Whether he is welcome to live in the US ought to be determined not by immigration officials, but by people exercising their right to private property. The fact that he has gotten work and awards is an indication that he is welcome and appreciated.


WON’T PLACES BECOME OVERCROWDED?

There are other factors involved in one’s residence other than employment or ‘usefulness to society.’ As long as private property owners don’t object to associating with the person, and he is able to purchase or rent his own property in which to stay, he is ‘welcome’ in his city, state, country, etc.

Now there is the fear that sans immigration policy, places like ‘Isteytsayd’ (Stateside) would become overcrowded and quality of life will decrease. This could only happen when private property is trumped by bureaucratic say-so, which would incentivize welfare recipients and promote black markets (due to minimum wage laws).


FREE ENTERPRISE IS THE GREAT EQUALIZER

Free markets tend to an equilibrium in conditions. Even if conditions are better in one country (e.g. the US; let’s forget the government-induced depression for now) and people flock there, businessmen take advantage via outsourcing or bargain hunting, by which consumer goods become more affordable and conditions elsewhere likewise improve.

Unrestricted prices and wages are the best way of ‘spreading the wealth’ around, and the movement of peoples could never be so one-sided that an entrepreneur won’t find opportunity elsewhere and reverse such a trend.


FINAL REMARKS

Jose Antonio Vargas is a case that challenges us to reconsider our ideas about immigration. Amnesties for TNTs (‘tago ng tago’; constantly hiding) may be a start in rectifying injustice, but as long as people do not recognize the state’s monopoly on travel for what it is, and demand its abolition, injustice will persist.


Related article:My review of ‘Crossing over,’ which was quite a good movie actually. Have some popcorn with it.

Friday, June 24, 2011

‘CRIME WAVE’ HITS METRO MANILA: FREE MARKETS COULD HELP


I’m not inclined to refer to the present situation as a “crime wave” as Inquirer’s headline story (June 24, 2011) claims, but I think the comments made by those interviewed would validate my earlier discussion on ‘crime preference.’

For one thing, most reported crimes can be tied to the financial stability of those involved. Although income is not the lone factor, it is a significant one. This might seem obvious to most; if all resources were abundant, there would be no coveting, disputing and forced taking of property. The very concept of ‘covet’ would not exist.


REMOVE GOVERNMENT INTERVENTION

The more relevant question though, is what is to be done to reduce ‘crime preference.’ The long-term solution lies in improving socioeconomic conditions, which is facilitated by free markets. If the major expropriator of private property, i.e. government, is weakened, black markets are no longer classified ‘illegal,’ and more employment opportunities open up as companies and individuals retain more of their earnings.


ABOLISH THE MONOPOLY ON SECURITY

Another important factor in the protection of private property is the monopolization of security by police and the military, wherein even ‘private’ security agencies require state licenses. But the manner of protection of one’s property is not a matter to be decided by outside elements; one should be able to make such arrangements with other entities. Therefore, no ‘national’ police or ‘national’ defense should exist. It is via competing security agencies (competing in the sense of providing services, which would in fact be aided by their coordination with one another) that the best service will come about, as with any industry.


CONCLUSION

The solution to poverty is tied to the solution to crime, to the point that they share a common solution: abolition of institutionalized coercion, i.e. government.

FILIPINO FREETHINKERS PROPOSE NO TAX EXEMPTION FOR CHURCH: NOT SO ‘FREE-THINKING’


Inquirer columnist Raul Pangalangan writes today about a proposal by the Filipino Freethinkers group, that would supposedly enforce the ‘separation of church and state’ principle: remove tax exemptions of entities who at present enjoy this ‘privilege’ in connection with their religious work, if these entities “engage in secular politics.” Pangalangan seems wowed by this proposal that is supposedly backed by jurisprudence, and even ventures to refer to it as “genius.”


‘FREETHINKERS’ DAW O

First of all, there’s nothing especially ‘free-thinking’ about the Filipino Freethinkers. They claim to be “unconstrained by dogma, authority, and tradition.” However, nobody in their right mind could claim to be completely free of cultural influences so as to engage in pure, unbiased, ‘free’ thought. Even I inevitably succumb to prejudices, or settle for particular theories ― the ‘dogma’ of free association, for example.

But the crucial thing is that one ought to be capable of backing up their claims via logic, the principles of which (causality, noncontradiction, transitivity, etc.) can be agreed on by separate parties. Our supposed ‘freethinkers,’ mired in their Malthusian, implicitly statist dogma, lose out in a debate when all relevant factors and facts are laid out.


ARGUENDO

For the sake of argument, I will not consider the unjust nature of taxation, which is nothing more than coerced taking of others’ property. Tax exemptions should be universal. A free society has no place for taxes.


NO SUCH VIOLATION

What our freethinking geniuses claim as a violation of ‘separation of church and state’ is nothing more than an exercise of free speech. These bishops may be wrong, but they are merely speaking their mind, albeit occasionally with the threat of hellfire, which, however, has no legal implications.

No legal implications; no coercion; no representatives of church acting on behalf of the state; so where’s the violation of ‘separation of church and state’?! How does this override loudmouth churchmen’s status as members of clergy, by which they would be liable for taxes?

The logical conclusion of the Filipino Freethinkers’ notion of ‘separation of church and state’ is that Church officials could not speak at all, even to relatives, lest they say something relating to politics. “Genius” indeed.


DISAGREEABLE CHURCHES BEING SUBSIDIZED?

Pangalangan refers to the tax exemption as:
... a hidden subsidy by taxpayers for causes chosen by unelected powers not beholden to the sovereign Filipino people.


Christians are not obligated by law to follow the Church’s dictates. Yet we’re supposed to believe that the CBCP’s causes are being “subsidized”? That’s like saying Pangalangan, in his not being charged a “columnist’s tax” on top of other taxes, is being subsidized by Filipinos who don’t read his column.

As I said before:
People should learn to distinguish between being bugged by their conscience, and being harassed by the government.



FINAL REMARKS

I’ve discussed the stupidity of the RH bill itself numerous times, basically saying it mistakenly presumes that:
1. Population is the cause of progress or prosperity; and that
2. Economic resources remain at a constant level.

This particular entry is just to point out the lack of sophistication and thinking ability of those who claim to be intellectuals. Granted they may excel in discussions pertaining to philosophy per se, they are way over their heads when it comes to the social sciences. This isn’t too bad; they’re in good company: Plato, Aristotle, Hegel, Nietzsche, and many other past thinkers had a poor grasp of what is a relatively new science (economics). The best thing our ‘freethinkers’ can do is shut up and read up.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

JOSE RIZAL'S LEGACY AT 150: OPPOSE OPPRESSION REGARDLESS OF NATIONALITY


I’m not the biggest fan of Jose Rizal (or ‘Pareng Joey,’ as I used to know him), but we could spin his writings and reputation in a way that serves to educate.

His focus on eliminating the ‘karahasan’ of the Spanish colonists of his day, as opposed to striving for Philippine independence, conveys that we should be wary of any forms of coercion, regardless of the nationalities involved.

If Rizal managed to survive to see the rise of the Philippine republic, he might have realized that any coercive institution was unjust. Today, we have to learn the lesson that even the present Philippine government, and all governments, are oppressive, with their elaborate systems of expropriation under the guise of ‘helping the poor,’ ‘protection of the people’ and whatnot.

I’m pretty sure Rizal heard the same drivel from Spain back in the day, and this demagoguery isn’t disappearing anytime soon, as long as there are people who fall for the notion of ‘public service’ being achieved by violence.


RIZAL AS NATIONALIST

I recall one of Rizal’s childhood poems about how one who doesn’t love their language is smellier than a fish or something, but this collectivistic statist mindset was probably something Rizal outgrew.

It is likely that, in the absence of scholars who were as intellectually sophisticated as Rizal, remnants of his numerous writings have been selectively interpreted, and his legacy twisted from one of sounder logical basis, to one of typical statist baloney that is embraced by the man in the street.

I may be too trusting, but I’d like to give Rizal the benefit of the doubt and recognize him as an anti-statist to a greater degree than is generally acknowledged.

SPRATLYS DISPUTE: WITHOUT PROPERTY RIGHTS, MIGHT MAKES RIGHT


MalacaƱang’s boast to “defend our sovereignity” against the Chinese government is of course hollow, but it displays the sad truth that in the absence of a social consensus as to the ownership of a piece of land, forceful invasions will occur and be tolerated.

I am not siding with either the Philippines or China when it comes to the Spratlys issue, because it’s all about expropriation to the countries staking a claim.

But my belief that an absolute regard for private property is the most rational way for setting boundaries among owners, means nothing if the present system of expropriation by coercive institutions rather than private entities is still given credence by the population. Might indeed makes ‘right,’ in the sense that events occur according to whatever forces dominate.

If we are to make a difference to the status quo, it would be by influencing people’s minds so that this ‘might’ is directed in the manner we see as providing the greatest utility in the long run.

The development of civilization involves people learning to think further and further into the future, and this manifests in various ways, including a faster rate of capital accumulation (saving), more roundabout processes of production, and of course a consensual recognition of each individual’s right to property, which has nothing to do with the state whatsoever.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

DLSU (LA SALLE) AT 100: PROUD TO BE GREEN!


A bunch of my Facebook contacts are posting stuff in the News Feed, related to the 100th anniversary of De La Salle University-Main in Taft, Manila (June 16, 2011).


TRIBE MENTALITY

It seems that even sans a government, people are programmed for collectivism, to maintain a tribal mentality even as the division of labor and globalization maximize the manifestation of preferences by which civilization moves onward.

Were the government to be abolished tomorrow, people would still go out of their way to display their preferences not in terms of subjective valuations ― which they are― but of superiority over other ‘tribes.’


IT’S OKAY TO EXPRESS PREFERENCES


With the UAAP or some other event, I don’t see any harm in one’s rooting for their alma mater’s team. I myself, at least until recently (I now do not pay attention long enough to care), desire to see my university win the basketball championship, for no other reason than that I could relate to the particular names and logos involved. I’m not under the delusion that an upholding of ‘religio, mores, cultura’ is behind my actions today, or that such slogans propel a team to victory.

The fact is, while certain subcultures do develop in a school, that result in traits in students distinct from others, this is no logical basis for individuals to claim to be morally superior, or for a team’s fans to deride those of another team. This seems quite elementary, until you see a brawl erupt among alumni in an Ateneo-La Salle basketball game!


INDIVIDUALS ARE MORE THAN THEIR UNIVERSITY

A university’s influence may be definite, but is often overestimated. One university might provide better education according to certain standards, but to rank a random assortment of intellectuals according to their alma mater would be a poor gauge of their individual talents.


KEEP IT IN PERSPECTIVE: IT’S SENTIMENTALITY, STUPID!

Ultimately, one’s ‘pride’ in their alma mater is derived from sentiment and nostalgia. I have some great memories of my life in campus, but could not begrudge another who holds different memories close to their heart.

Free society has much to do with recognizing our differing ― not conflicting ― subjective preferences, by which mutually beneficial transactions take place.

Viewed holistically, a shift in attitudes, from ‘absolutes’ or ‘objectivity’ to an understanding of valuations necessitated by one’s unique constitution and circumstances, would bode well for the market economy.

THE COMING CRISIS: ‘FOOD JUSTICE’ ACHIEVED BY ‘NEW GLOBAL GOVERNANCE’?


The Philippine Daily Inquirer has been a constant companion at breakfast. At present, it guides me as to the prevalent mindset that manifests in the poverty around us. I am constantly challenged to make sense of the twists in logic that make for or reveal a kind of state worship.

Today’s editorial, ‘The coming crisis’ (June 16, 2011), cites a recent report by Oxfam (‘Growing a better future: Food justice in a resource-constrained world,’ written by Robert Bailey) also mentioned by Cielito Habito the other day, that warns of an assortment of occurrences that as a whole spell trouble for the world economy. As for the solution, the writer of the editorial is unsure, but believes salvation would require an assembling of statesmen who will then devise some great plan. Oxfam itself looks to ‘new global governance,’ by which a coordination between political leaders is meant.

Could the statist mentality be any clearer?


‘EXCESS’

The Inquirer criticizes the perceived culture of excess that makes for tremendous wastes of resources even as people in other parts of the world have little on which to subsist.


‘ALL-YOU-CAN-EAT’ IS ABOUT OPTIMIZATION, NOT EXCESS

Even all-you-can-eat promos are not to be spared! As if restaurants do not calculate customers’ intake, or as if customers do not calculate whether they could make ‘sulit’ their meal, by which prices are set. And should measures then be taken to prevent diners from spending ‘too much’ on food, whether in restaurants or homes?


FROM LUXURY TO MUNDANITY

In fact, the much-derided ‘excess,’ when not expropriated by government, is part of what makes possible the accumulation of capital by which the status quo is constantly updated over time. Our everyday appliances and gadgets were once ‘excess’ luxuries too, but are now taken for granted.


RICH-POOR DISPARITY: SOLVED BY REDISTRIBUTION?

There is definitely a large disparity between living conditions of the rich and poor, but the statist interpretation is that resolution can only come about by taking from the rich and giving to the poor, a la Robin Hood. Prosperity then becomes a matter of shipping resources to where they are perceived to be needed.

But why not ask instead how these developed economies got to a condition where waste becomes even a possibility? What system is lacking in the developing world? Surely not one where politicians assembled and figured out how to grow each sector.

The light bulb, the television, the airplane, the laptop, fastfood, the internet (its entrepreneurial application, that is), etc. are not state creations. Nor will a sustainable upliftment of conditions be achieved by the state.


MORE TRADE, NOT ‘SELF-SUFFICIENCY’

Instead of longing for ‘self-sufficiency’ (the logical conclusion of which would render each person consuming only that which they produce) or for intergovernmental coordination of food supplies, what about eliminating trade restrictions, both direct (tariffs) and indirect (red tape in business registration)?


FREE AND UNFREE SYSTEMS

It is market ‘anarchy’ that has eradicated poverty, that has created the wealth by which the contrasting concept of ‘poverty’ ever came about, as seen in market-absent societies. The difference between free and unfree society isn’t readily observable when we look at the world; statism is increasingly prevalent even in ‘capitalist’ America, whose financial system could not be more alarming.

The rise in food prices, is in fact at least partly attributable to the international central banking system, and therefore, being a mere symptom, would not be solved by Oxfam’s desired price controls.


CONCLUSION

The Oxfam report and the Inquirer editorial can be read as excuses for more government intervention into our lives. Instead of making baseless claims of a 3-4 degree temperature increase due to ‘climate change,’ and reciting platitudes of people’s ‘right to food,’ a real analyst ought to spot the inefficiencies of state planning per se, and find solutions not in cutting one group’s abundance, but in making such abundance possible all around. This would necessarily involve letting go of the notion of government-as-solution.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

TIME MAGAZINE ADMITS FALSE RECOVERY: YES TO MORE GOVERNMENT


In late 2009, Time Magazine, along with most large publications, were eager to declare a recovery from the mid-2000s housing bust. But if you knew the situation firsthand or heard of it from relatives and friends, you would have known that things were still not going well.

Now, Time could no longer deny that there has been no recovery (‘What U.S. economic recovery? Five destructive myths,’ cover date June 20, 2011). But even as it flip-flops, it analyzes the specifics just as wrong as it ever did, and with the same ill-thought proposals.


SPECIFICS ARE ALL WRONG

While admitting that sheer spending by the govermnent and the private sector will not lift the economy, Time’s economist writer Rana Foroohar seems to mock the concept of saving (“starve your way to economic growth”) and appears to favor protectionist measures so as to keep companies from acquiring cheaper labor and resources from abroad.

Ms. Foroohar laments Americans’ lack of willingness to take on more taxes and to raise the debt ceiling, on the belief that a private sector alone could not get out of the mess.


MORE GOVERNMENT, MORE OF THE SAME

All her proposals (some of which are merely implied) will just make for higher-priced goods, greater public debt, and of course, persistently high unemployment. Saving is not about starving, but cutting down to essentials, allowing for investment to be in line with people’s actual ability to spend. As part of this adjustment period (two years of which would probably not be enough to rectify a near-century’s worth of irresponsible financial policy), prices will have to be allowed to dip, and less feasible projects allowed to fail.


JOBS FOR CONSUMERS’ SAKE

Which brings us to Ms. Foroohar’s next observation of companies’ incomes rising without this leading to higher employment figures. Apart from the fact that employment of resources and people has yet to adjust to consumers’ spending ability, and that nominally higher incomes are artifically induced by central banks, companies ought to continue availing of foreign employees and inputs, by which goods and services could be provided most efficiently. This redounds to consumers, as lower-priced goods.

To create government programs for the sake of jobs, defeats the purpose of job creation, that is, productivity. Salaries (as well as unemployment benefits) may indeed be more readily available in the short term, but these would then be used to purchase crummier goods than what otherwise would have prevailed. Whereas, if productivity is maximized, those in the US work force could later shift to sectors with a comparative advantage.


CONCLUSION

The poorly thought solutions of Time Magazine ― subsidies, import tariffs, heavy regulations, higher taxes, unionism, state-sponsored spending ― all make for cronies, and do not solve anything. People have to see such measures for what they are, regardless of the rhetoric in which they are dressed.

There is no imminent recovery; to know this is not enough, if the political elite are allowed to spin it their way.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

CAPITALISM AND COMMUNISM: SYSTEMS, NOT COUNTRIES


From today’s Inquirer editorial (June 14, 2011):
It is noteworthy that the Philippines has receded more and more from the radar of American foreign policymakers as China’s economic weight becomes more and more a tantalizing prospect for American business. Liberal capitalism and totalitarian communism may not be strange bedfellows after all.


What is given importance by the writer is nominal capitalism and nominal communism, without regard for what these terms actually mean. In fact, to the degree that the Chinese government has allowed its people to trade, the country has become more capitalistic. And to the degree that the US government has intruded into the lives of people around the world, the country has become more totalitarian. This is just simple logic.

So there is absolutely no basis for stating that these political systems, one of freedom, and the other against freedom, are compatible in any way.

It is true that the accumulation of capital and wealth may lead to these resources being allocated according to the interests of a political elite, if the intellectual climate tolerates this. But it is obvious that if this happens, as is occurring in the US and continues to occur in China, we are dealing with state interference, or the opposite of capitalism, which is premised on freedom and an absolute regard for private property.

The Inquirer editorial is typical of a prevalent mindset, where terms are not even defined properly; it is no surprise that there is a corresponding lack of understanding of issues. As Juan Mercado quotes in the same opinion page:
The beginning of wisdom is to call all things by their right names.

BLACK CORAL POACHERS FLEE: ‘SMUGGLING’ NOT THE PROBLEM


‘Smuggling’ is the accusation against the black coral traders who have managed to flee the country and evade the authorities. But few even ask the nature of the crime, or bother to define ‘smuggling.’


CUSTOMS MAKES PRICES HIGHER, EMPLOYMENT LOWER ― FOR NO GOOD REASON

We take for granted that prices for smuggled goods are cheaper than they otherwise would have been. Affordability may even make us feel a little guilty. But who bothers to ask, is the additional cost of everything worth it? What exactly am I getting from having goods pass through Customs, that makes them more expensive by significant percentages, often 10%-50%?

We don’t even have to begin asking the implications on the employment situation, to realize that smuggling is not worth it. From what am I being protected?


CUSTOMS IS USELESS AND ANTI-FREEDOM

We tend to take for granted that we have to follow the law and that things should go through Customs, without considering alternatives that do not require the restriction of our actions yet provide greater utility as a whole.


With regards to the black coral trade, there is nothing that could not be resolved under the private property framework.


NATURAL RESOURCES SHOULD BE PRIVATE PROPERTY

Coral depletion is the adverse effect of the vagueness as to who controls the properties involved. We take for granted that these ‘natural resources’ are state-owned, as stated in the 1987 Constitution, and it is no wonder that, in the absence of an owner’s interest and incentive to maintain these properties, that resources are snatched away by shady elements.



CUSTOMS SHOULD BE ABOLISHED

When this is realized and the property issue is resolved (including affirming individuals’ right to trade whatever they want, including drugs and guns), ‘anti-smuggling’ has no rationale ― Customs will have no reason to exist, and senators will have one less pretext for grandstanding.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

TAGUM CITY’S LOW POVERTY: THANKS TO POPULATION CONTROL?


The Inquirer has done it again, with the article ‘Tagum: A poster city for RH bill,’ in which the spin is that local government-provided vasectomies and ligations have kept poverty incidence in Tagum City at ‘only’ 19%.

Just as with the Salve article last month (which was not just unscholarly, but anti-scholarly), we are tossed data without any regard for the interpretation of such data, resulting in bad conclusions that do not reflect reality.


POPULATION IS ONLY INCIDENTAL, NEVER A CAUSE

Reducing human beings in a community could not create wealth. One must eye with suspicion, if not complete doubt, any case studies premised on this.


The number of dependent mouths to feed is a decision arrived at by couples, but this has implications only on the distribution of existent resources in the short term. If we are to consider sustainability of such output, or the growth of such output per capita, population is irrelevant.


THE REAL FACTORS BEHIND PROSPERITY

To be fair to the writer Frinston Lim, he admitted that there were other factors involved, in particular, the existence of a nearby banana plantation, as well as profitable mining operations nearby.

And so we see a logical explanation for the supposed reduction of poverty in Tagum: increased employment opportunities.

In the absence of such profitable enterprise, can we be expected to believe that less people would make for greater output within the community? What more a generation from now, with less producers and the same restrictive government policies?



FINAL REMARKS

The Inquirer did good in keeping this lousily argued article in the inside pages this time around. Next time they decide to make another population-control-will-lower-poverty article, it is hoped that they don’t bother publishing at all.

Related article: Political activists: Learn economics, please

Saturday, June 11, 2011

NBA FINALS 2011 PHILIPPINES ― UNSELFISHNESS AND TEAMWORK


Like many Filipinos, I have been glued to the 2011 NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks. It’s been a thrill to watch on BTV at 9 a.m. There’s so much hatred towards one team (Miami) that has made for new fans of the other team (Dallas). I anxiously look forward to the conclusion of the tightly contested best-of-seven series.


‘SELFLESS’ BASKETBALL

What has irked me ever so slightly when watching NBA games is hearing the commentators talk about ‘unselfish’ or ‘selfless’ plays, by which great teamwork for the sake of raising a team’s point total is meant. Mark Jackson constantly speaks of how Lebron James ‘unselfishly’ dishes to Dwayne Wade for an alley-oop, or how Jason Kidd acts so ‘selfless’ in providing an assist to Dirk Nowitzki.


‘Selfless’? As if it were against a passer’s interests for his teammate to score points for the team, thereby increasing their chances to win! As if any right-minded player would prefer high-scoring stats (along with resentment of his coach and teammates) as opposed to a championship!


GOVERNMENT VS ‘SELFISH’ PRIVATE INTERESTS

You might say that this is much ado about mere semantics. But unfortunately, such language is quite indicative of people’s political points of view. How often has welfarism or government-provided ‘social services’ been argued on the basis of fighting the ‘selfish’ interests of businessmen and other market participants? Or that greed or the profit motive must be replaced by some lofty notion of ‘love for your fellowman’?


In fact, such rhetoric goes against the very essence of human action, that is, seeking to attain more favorable conditions. We are not just referring to a crude concept of material satisfaction, but to all aspects of humanity that make for healthy individuals, including the social aspect. There is no contradiction in a father’s desire to give his daughter the best education possible, just as there is no contradiction in an exchange of properties between two entities each seeking what’s best for them, or with a person achieving a sense of satisfaction by providing the less fortunate with work or education opportunities.


A MATTER OF FORESIGHT

The disconnect in people’s minds between ‘selfishness’ and ‘selflessness’ is unfortunate. I myself would replace the term ‘selfish’ with ‘short-sighted,’ in that it is a lack of foresight that often prevents people from attaining what would have otherwise been a greater good for themselves and others. Such a long-term orientedness that takes other people into account (‘selflessness’), is in fact just as ‘selfish’ in the more holistic sense.

It is via free conduct in the marketplace that long-term individual interests prevail, a process that is hindered to the degree that market participants are prevented from exercising their choices as to what is to be done with their property (in favor of politicians).


GOVERNMENT HAS NO PURPOSE

The biggest hindrance to freedom is of course government, even as it claims to be a disinterested institution seeking upliftment of the poor. It is indeed ‘selfless,’ but not in the sense intended by demagogues; in the absence of individuals manifesting their preferences, as replaced by bureaucrats’ necessarily arbitrary conjectures, there is no ‘self’ to speak of, no composite of purposes by which civilization advances.



CONCLUSION

I don’t blame Mark Jackson or Jeff Van Gundy for using the term ‘unselfish’ when describing basketball plays; I admit it’s more convenient than saying “What long-term foresight that encompasses the players’ higher priorities!” But such simplified terms should not be taken literally, and one should be wary of the implications to political economy.

Friday, June 10, 2011

PHILIPPINES-CHINA-ET AL SPRATLYS DISPUTE: PRIVATE PROPERTY IS THE SOLUTION


I could save myself the time and trouble of writing in this blog, and use “Private property is the solution” for just about any issue involving social conflict. I did it for the bangus fishkill scare, and I’m doing it now, for the Spratly Islands territorial dispute involving the Philippines, China and other countries. Not to say that private property is a panacea that will eradicate all conflict, but it is necessary for peace to pervade.

We’re a long way from a system of total private property, but this does not lessen the importance of studying and discussing it.



GOVERNMENTS INFLATE THE PROBLEM

How insane is it that a significant chunk of the world’s land mass (China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, Philippines; by extension, the United States and other ‘allies’ of some of these countries) is involved in disputing a total of just four square kilometers of land and surrounding waters? This can only be because such property is nationalized, as opposed to being privately owned. War, while not imminent, becomes a possibility for well over a billion people.

If the Spratlys were owned by private individuals as opposed to nations, this would mean that some people staked their claims early on and have since passed on their rights down by the generation, as with any property. The division of the islands might be by lots, or it might be owned in totality, but the boundaries would be definite and the claims indisputable.



NO STATE, NO MILITARY MOTIVE

A primary reason for countries’ interest in the region is its militarily strategic location. Take away this motive of nation-states, and the value of the territory ― not to mention its divisiveness ― decreases.

If a government did not have any rights of which to speak when it came to a piece of private property (e.g. real estate tax, right-of-way, agrarian reform, etc.), there would also be less dispute between military powers. When ‘public property’ is abolished and expropriation is no longer a possibility, this means that coercive institutions (e.g. governments) have no motive for fighting with other coercive institutions. But of course, a system of pure private property means that governments will have been abolished.



CONCLUSION

As we can see, private property not only reduces conflict, but it makes the causes of conflict irrelevant. It is not just the solution, it also makes for prevention.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

BANGUS FISHKILL: PRIVATE PROPERTY IS THE SOLUTION


Most people are blaming ‘profit’ for the fishkills that have occurred in Pangasinan and Batangas. A better way to put it, however, is that the means of profit has damaged marine ecosystems.

It is a given that humans, as part of the environment, are going to influence it somehow. This necessarily involves that people are going to exercise discretion so as to maximize gains derived from the environment. What is worrisome, however, is that in the process, resources will dry up to the detriment of humans themselves.


PUBLIC PROPERTY

Under the present system of public ownership of waterforms, fishermen seek to take as much as they can, enlarging the scope of their operations, without regard for others’ use or for future fishing conditions. Such behavior, as we can see in the recent fishkills, is short term-oriented.


PRIVATE PROPERTY

This ‘tragedy of the commons’ is not inescapable, however. What is required is for people to be granted claims to ownership of these resources, so that sustainability of resources becomes a primary concern. Private owners, unlike government regulators, actually care about the success of their endeavors, and would thus coordinate and make arrangements with each other (such as in anticipating fluctuating oxygen levels) to ensure long-term profitability.

“Do you really expect fishermen to incur additional costs in this utopia of yours?” But fishermen don’t have to be owners. A businessman may purchase a fishing area and collect a percentage from those whom he permits to fish. And with a decrease in ‘public property,’ there is less rationale for local and national governments to tax citizens. Such tax savings would offset fishermen’s ‘rental’ costs.


‘COMMUNAL’ PROPERTY

Such private ownership might be shared by a large number of people for a specific natural resource such as a lake. Such ‘communal’ ownership works to the degree that individual owners are specified ― e.g. not a blanket ‘townsfolk’ characteristic of public or state property; individual interests are conveyable; and accountability of each co-owner is maintained. Such representation is similar to that of officers in a corporation, by which decisions are made.




CONCLUSION

It behooves us to see the difference between self-interest in a government-controlled system, and self-interest among private property owners. In a market-based society, profit is not detrimental to others, and in fact serves as a signal that other people are served well.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

SHOULD MARCOS BE GIVEN A HERO’S BURIAL?


“Should Marcos be buried in Libingan Ng Mga Bayani?” had been an unresolved question for the past two decades. It looks like the late president won’t be buried at the heroes’ cemetery, but may still be accorded honors becoming of heroes when he’s finally buried.


DICTATORSHIP IS JUST MORE OBVIOUS


Marcos’ dictatorship, to me, was simply a more obvious display of statism, the essence of which is always violent and socially detrimental even in a democracy. With this in mind, all politicians and military officers could not be considered ‘heroes’ in the sense of having a positive influence in the community.

But things aren’t so black and white. Even government representatives are capable of heroic deeds, but we should keep in mind that their being statesmen is only incidental in this regard. Heroism, in fact, is often exhibited in defense against government instrusion into people’s lives.



EVEN POLITICIANS ACT IN A PRIVATE CAPACITY

It is only when politicians act in their capacity as private citizens, e.g. overthrowing dictators, not using monopolistic and expropriative powers of the state in providing ‘social services,’ etc. that they are still capable of good. That is why it is not so much of a paradox to see bureaucrats being good parents, for instance.

I remember in my time as a government employee, that it was those traits that had nothing to do with state intervention, e.g. work discipline, closeness to family, etc. that I could appreciate from those to whom I reported, who would otherwise be known as scumbags in their capacity as ‘public servants.’



SO, TO CONCLUDE

Some politicians and military officers may accomplish exceptional feats for which they would deserve the title of ‘hero’ (Marcos is not one of such people, as far as I know). But again, such achievements have nothing to do with being part of an institution premised on coercion, i.e. government, and would actually involve opposing violent elements, particularly government.